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Understanding Norovirus

Norovirus is a virus that can infect the stomach and intestines. It is the most common cause of diarrhea and vomiting. The virus spreads easily in areas of close human contact, such as schools and cruise ships.

What causes norovirus infection?

Norovirus is very contagious. You can be infected with norovirus by coming into contact with a person who has the virus. Or you can get it by touching a contaminated surface or eating contaminated food. Washing your hands well can lower your risk of getting the virus. You can also get it by consuming food and water contaminated with the virus. Foods most likely to become tainted include:

  • Shellfish

  • Ready-to-eat salads and sandwiches

  • Produce such as celery, melons, and leafy vegetables

Follow these tips to prevent infection:

  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water after going to the bathroom, after changing a diaper, and before touching any food.

  • If someone in the house has norovirus, wash all surfaces that might be contaminated. Use a bleach-based cleane. Wash clothes or linens right away that may be contaminated.

  • Don't eat food or drink water in areas with warnings of contamination.

What are the symptoms of norovirus?

Some people may have no symptoms. In people who do, symptoms show up suddenly,  typically within a day of being exposed. The illness lasts 1 to 3 days. Symptoms include:

  • Fever

  • Non-bloody diarrhea

  • Nausea

  • Non-bloody vomiting

  • Headache

  • Achiness

  • Stomach cramping

More severe cases are often seen in infants, older adults, and people with other health problems. Symptoms may last longer and be more severe in these groups.

How is  norovirus treated?

There is no medicine to cure norovirus. Treatment includes:

  • Rest. You may feel better faster if you get plenty of rest.

  • Fluids. Drinking lots of fluids will help you stay hydrated. Don’t drink alcohol or beverages with caffeine. They can make your symptoms worse.

  • Medicine. Over-the-counter medicines for diarrhea may ease symptoms. These should be used only by adults. Pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help with headaches and body aches.

What are the possible complications of norovirus?

Dehydration is the main concern with norovirus infection. Severe dehydration may need to be treated in the hospital. You may need to get fluids through an IV (intravenous),or

When should I call my  healthcare provider?

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these:

  • Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider

  • Belly (abdominal) pain that gets worse

  • Severe dizziness, especially when getting up from bed

  • Vomiting so severe that you can’t keep fluids down

© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.